Should IT Managers Become More Empathetic?

Does empathy help you to become a better IT manager?
Does empathy help you to become a better IT manager?
Image Credit:
Day Donaldson

As an IT manager, you are responsible for a team of IT professionals. This means that it’s your job to hire the right people, provide them with an overall sense of direction, provide them with specific tasks to accomplish, and to use your IT manager skills to ensure that the work gets done along with some IT team building. Interestingly enough, in order to accomplish all of this, you need to create a personal connection with each member of your team. A big part of this connection is your ability to feel empathy. Do you know how to do this?

The Power Of Empathy

So just exactly what is empathy? Empathy is when you are sensitive to the emotions of others, both positive and negative. What this means is that when a member of your team is feeling positive feelings such as joy or amusement, you can feel empathetic with them. Likewise you can feel empathic with someone who is feeling anger and sadness.

When an IT manager is dealing with a team member who is feeling some strong emotions, our IT manager training tells us that it is possible for them to react in two completely different ways. The first way is called “empathy concern” or simply caregiving. When this happens, the IT manager views themselves as providing both comfort and support to the other person. However, some IT managers feel threatened when team members are expressing a lot of emotion. They may try to minimize their discomfort by distancing themselves from the team member.

Where does this ability to be empathetic with our team members come from? It is at least partly genetic. However, the ability to both read and respond to another person’s emotions correctly comes from our childhood and what we observed our parents doing. If you observed people running away or suppressing their feelings, then that will seem like the right thing to do for you. However, if you saw people being generous to each other, then that will seem like the right thing to do.

How To Be An Empathetic IT Manager

In order to be a successful IT manager, you need to learn how to be empathic with your team members. This means that you need to take the time to pay attention to your team member’s emotions. You need to ask yourself if you are judging this person. When you think about it, do you believe that you are incapable of helping them?

In order to really connect with a member of your team, you are going to have to practice listening to them very carefully. You are going to have to determine if you are doing a good job of this. One way that you can tell that you are listening well is when you make eye contact with them. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted during the conversation. Finally, based on what they are telling you, ask them questions in order to show them that you are listening and are interested in what they are saying.

When you are being empathic with someone, you don’t want to make mistakes. It would be wrong to try to tell them to not be sad or angry. Don’t make the mistake of trying to convince them that things will get better. Instead, understand that you don’t actually have to fix their problem. Instead, all you have to is to validate the feelings that they are having.

What All Of This Means For You

In our quest to become better IT managers, we need to understand that we have to find ways to connect with the members of our team. This means that when they are feeling emotional, both in a positive and a negative way, we need find ways to understand what they are feeling. This means that we need to become empathic.

Empathy is the ability to understand what someone else is currently feeling. When we are dealing with a member of our team who is expressing emotions we can react in one of two different ways. We can offer to become a caregiver and understand what they are feeling or we can pull away and attempt to put some distance between us and the emotional person. In order to be a good IT manager you need to learn how to be empathic. This means that you need to pay attention to your team members. You need to listen to what they are saying carefully. You need to avoid telling them that they should not be feeling some way and that things will get better.

If you don’t naturally fell empathy towards other people, learning how to do this can be difficult. However, in order to be a good IT manager you need to be able to both read the emotions of what your team members are currently feeling as well as connect with them. Work at becoming more empathic and your team will appreciate you more.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it is possible for an IT manager to become too empathic?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT manager it is your responsibility to manage the various members of your team. Our IT manager training has taught us that we need to get to know each of them, understand what they are hoping to accomplish, and then provide them with challenging assignments that will help them to grow their skills. This is all fine and good as long as this is what your team members want. However, it turns out that there are some team members who are not looking for what you have to offer. We call these team members “prisoners”.

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